interview with "Packing it out"
At Appalachian Trail Days this year, we met up with Seth "Cap" Orme, "Goose" and "Spice" of the Packing It Out crew. Their mission is to pick up trash as they hike the AT, and so far they've carried out 470 pounds of litter. Needless to say, their adventure is one that should be shared, in the hopes that others on the trail will pick up trash and pack it out. Recently, we chatted more in depth with Cap to learn more about his thru-hike.
GG: We’re big fans of your work. We really admire the fact that instead of just talking about all the trash on the trail, you’re actually picking it up and packing it out. Where are you on the trail now and how many pounds have you picked up so far?
Cap: We are currently in Front Royal, Virginia at mile marker 969. Since starting our northbound hike at Springer Mountain, Georgia, we have removed 470 pounds of trash from the trail.
GG: When did the idea to “pack it out” while you hiked the AT come to fruition?
Cap: Prior to Packing It Out, I worked as an outdoor/ adventure guide so practicing Leave No Trace environmental ethics was a part of my daily life. The idea to clean America's trails was sparked in early December 2014 during a trip home to Georgia. Having spent 200 days outside that year, the woods really felt like my home. I just couldn't walk past pieces of trash anymore. I resolved to clean up any trash I saw during hikes. On two separate day hikes I found that I had collected an average of at least one pound of trash per mile hiked. I stood on the edge of a rocky outcropping in the Southern Nantahala Wilderness when the idea to clean the entire Appalachian Trail hit me. Combined feelings of awe, inspiration, and a little vertigo had me yearning for more time in the Appalachians. I looked back at the overfilled trash bag on the ground and the spark was lit. I decided that in 2015 I would clean the entire length of the Appalachian Trail with the hopes of inspiring others to respect and clean our trails.
With the seed planted, I had all winter to water the idea of Packing It Out. I kept Packing It Out quiet for a couple months, mainly because I wasn't sure if cleaning the entire Appalachian Trail during a thru-hike was realistic. I told a few close friends and they were stoked on the idea. I was rebuilding wood canoes with Spice (Paul) and saw little of Goose (Joe) since our last adventure down the Mississippi River in 2010. Shortly after telling Spice about the idea to pack it out, Goose called. I told him what we were planning to do this summer. One week later, Goose called back and said he was coming with me. Spice committed to the hike shortly after. Packing It Out was now a trio and the idea to clean 2,189 miles of trail quickly became much more realistic.
We started hiking north on March 29th. 74 days later we have hiked 969 miles and have removed about a quarter ton of trash from the Appalachian Trail.
GG: You have a blog post about Trail Karma. Out of all the karma that has come your way on the trail, which has had the biggest impact on you and your team, and the mission?
Cap: We have received nothing but amazing Trail Karma along our hike thus far. The Heaton family has by far had the biggest impact on the team as well as the Packing It Out mission.
The Heaton's have taken care of us the majority of our walk in Virginia. We met the first Heaton (Doubleback) on the third day of our thru-hike. She loved what we were doing and quickly decided to continue her section hike with us. Every week she would say "Wait till you get to Virginia; my family will take care of you guys." She was not kidding! Her family has jumped through hoops to help make our hike in Virginia as enjoyable as possible. They have given us places to stay, fed us relentlessly, shuttled us all around, packed our collected trash in to town, and have even packed-in our three-day resupply to our shelter for the night. I'm literally answering these questions from the Heaton's beautiful mountain home in Front Royal, VA. We can not thank Trail Angels like the Heaton's enough for their encouragement and continued support.
GG: So far, which areas on the AT have had the most litter?
Cap: Georgia and North Carolina have had the most litter, so far.
A large portion of trash, early on, was a result of poor prior planning by folks heading into the woods. For example, a quarter mile before reaching the start of the AT on Springer Mountain we met a man with an empty looking backpack who told us that he left his sleeping bag on top of the mountain because it got wet the night before. He said "It just doesn't make sense to carry something that heavy down the mountain now, you know?". Most of the trash we find now is located around shelters and near towns. A lot of folks still think that plastics and foil based packages burn easily. We can assure you that they do not.
GG: Do you think you’ve inspired others on the trail to pick up trash while they thru-hike?
Cap: Absolutely! Multiple thru-hikers we've met have started picking up litter as they hike north to Maine. On a daily basis, hikers erupt with joy when they see us cleaning around the shelters.
GG: After you complete the AT this summer, what’s next?
Cap: After cleaning the Appalachian Trail, we plan to clean America's other trails. Packing It Out will be on the Pacific Crest Trail summer of 2016.
GG: We know that your mission is to “Inspire a greater sense of environmental stewardship within our communities by raising awareness for litter conditions along America’s trails.” Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Cap: Whether we go out for 5 months or 5 minutes, lets work together to keep America's trails cleaner.
Every bit of support we receive further perpetuates our chances of completing this hike. Friends, family and folks like the Heaton's are a large part of this trip becoming and continuing to be a reality. To support our current Appalachian Trail effort check out our Go Fund Me site. Thank you for your time.